Numerous stories and features to celebrate International Women’s Day this month prompted us to look into that most ‘poker’ of all statistics – who has won the most money – and here’s the top 3 in our top female players countdown…
The memory plays tricks over time, and players you thought were top ten or top five proved to be no such thing. Double EPT winner Victoria Coren-Mitchell only makes it to number 14, while former poker prodigy, Annette Obrestad, ranks at number six.
For some reason, we had also tagged the following Canadian poker queen as the winningest female of all time. A quick double-check with The Hendon Mob and a speedy correction later, weighing in at number three is…
3. Kristen Bicknell $5,188,968
Born on the shores of Lake Ontario, 34-year-old Bicknell followed a common route into poker, picking it up at college and turning her enjoyment of the game into a hugely lucrative career, spurred on by the successes of the likes of Jennifer Harman.
A true grinder, within 5 years she had picked up SuperNovaElite status on PokerStars, something she’d manage a further twice. In fact, in what is a highly unusual stat for female players, Kristen has made more money online than live.
More than 2000 online cashes and over $6million in winnings brings her very close to our number one female player in overall money won.
Her big live wins started in 2013, when she picked up her first WSOP bracelet, taking down the Ladies Championship title for $173,922. A few years later, Bicknell had moved from one of the leading female players to one of the leading players, full stop.
A $290k payday accompanied her second bracelet win (and a 3rd would be added in last year’s Online WSOP) while she added a WPT title late in 2017.
By now a partypoker sponsored pro, Bicknell added three 6-figure cashes in 2018, then began 2019 with deep runs in both the PCA and the ‘Aussie Millions’ series.
She would end the year with a highly significant Poker Masters $25k title victory, proving once and for all she belonged in the elite group of poker players.
With her partner, Alex Foxen, also among the world’s best players, Kristen Bicknell could quite conceivably take over the number one female spot in the future, although even that would likely only be a stepping stone to greater things.
2. Kathy Liebert $6,337,998
For the modern-day poker fan, the name Kathy Liebert might be rather less-known, but to a certain vintage, the Tennessee pro was among the first women to prove herself equal to many and better than most men at the game.
When she started out on the pro circuit in the 1990’s, Liebert was ploughing a lonely furrow for women, explaining to PokerListings a decade later:
“In the 90s there were hardly any women at all. They were saying I was the best woman player which was a compliment but there were only a few women playing. So when people called me the best woman player I’d say, ‘Can you even name five other woman players?’ It was a compliment but at the same time being one of the best women was kind of a joke because there were so few.”
Liebert would go on to change many players’ perceptions about what women were capable of in poker, becoming the first female to lift a $1million prize.
Unofficially, she admitted to only pocketing about half that sum for the 2002 win at the partypoker Million CardPlayer cruise event, following a final table deal with the likes of Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson.
More success was to follow for Kathy, a WSOP bracelet in 2004 for winning the $1500 Limit Shootout, and then a Battle of the Sexes victory the next year, taking down Layne ‘back-to-back- Flack heads-up in the Grand Final.
Barely a year went past for a decade that didn’t see Liebert regularly cashing for 5-and 6-figures, close runs for further WSOP and WPT adding to her $6million lifetime tournament earnings.
Now happier playing mid-stakes tournaments, Liebert fully deserves her place as one of poker’s greatest pioneers.
1. Vanessa Selbst $11,906,246
No other female has come close to matching Vanessa Selbst’s live tournament successes, the 36-year-old Brooklyn-born pro posting almost $12million in cashes before retiring from full-time play a few years ago.
As the only female in the overall top 100, reaching as high as 20th at one point, Selbst burst onto the scene with two six-figure cashes at the WSOP, in 2006 and 2007.
She followed that up with her first gold bracelet in 2008, pocketing $227,933 for her $1,500 PLO victory, and a further two bracelets would come.
In 2012 she took down the $2500 10-game 6-handed title, and in 2014 she bagged her third WSOP gold, a massive $871,148 cash in the Mix-Max NLHE event. More than just the money, these wins proved she was an expert at different variants, a good sign of an excellent poker pedigree.
The years 2010 and 2011 saw her lift back-to-back NAPT wins, worth a combined $1.2million, and in between times she had scooped the Partouche Poker Tour title in Paris, a victory worth €1.3million ($1,823,430) ahead of Europe’s best pros.
By 2013 she was one of the most feared players on the circuit, and proved her elite mettle once again by scooping the 2013 PCA SHR for more than $1.4million. In 2015 she bagged another 7-figure score when she won the invite-only Super High Roller Celebrity Shootout.
Selbst first overcame her pro table consisting of Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, and then went on to defeat actor and comedian Kevin Pollak heads-up.
Vanessa Selbst officially retired from professional poker at the end of 2017, turning to hedge fund trading as a career. Like Liebert before her and Bicknell since, Selbst proved that women can compete against the very best in the world.